CHAMPFROGS… The 10 Intrinsic Desires

In Management 3.0 classes I let participants play an exercise called Moving Motivators, which uses the CHAMPFROGS model for intrinsic motivation. This model is loosely based on the book The 16 Basic Desires by Steven Reiss.

I simplified Reiss’ model by removing some very basic desires, such as family, romance, and vengeance, which I considered somewhat less desirable within the context of a team. (Though this simplification makes the model less applicable to the crew of Battlestar Galactica, and other teams on TV.)

By renaming a few of the key terms I came up with this list of 10 intrinsic desires


Curiosity: I have plenty of things to investigate and to think about.

Honor: I feel proud that my personal values are reflected in how I work.

Acceptance: The people around me approve of what I do and who I am.

Mastery: My work challenges my competence but it is still within my abilities.

Power: There’s enough room for me to influence what happens around me.

Freedom: I am independent of others with my work and my responsibilities.

Relatedness: I have good social contacts with the people in my work.

Order: There are enough rules and policies for a stable environment.

Goal: My purpose in life is reflected in the work that I do.

Status: My position is good, and recognized by the people who work with me.

Relatedness-cardI told many people that I have no idea what champfrogs means. But it’s a nice mnemonic that enables me to remember the 10 intrinsic motivators for team members.

Sometimes people point out to me that there are other models for intrinsic motivation available:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with his famous theory in 1943:

Self-actualization: similar to Curiosity, Mastery, Freedom

Esteem: similar to Honor, Power, Goal, Status

Love/belonging: similar to Relatedness, Acceptance

Safety: similar to Order

Physiological: similar to a few that I deleted.

I simply made a best guess of the correlation with Maslow’s model and Champfrogs, so please don’t interpret my mapping as a law. Also note that scientists have dismissed the hierarchical nature of Maslow’s model as unscientific. Personally, I find the 10 motivators easier to discuss than Maslow’s hierarchy, which is why I prefer the Champfrogs model.

SCARF by David Rock

Dr. David Rock, the founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, came up with this model:

Status: same as in Champfrogs

Certainty: equivalent to Order

Autonomy: equivalent to Freedom

Relatedness: same as in Champfrogs

Fairness: similar to Honor (not sure about this one)

It seems to me that SCARF is simply half of CHAMPFROGS. The motivators that are missing are Curiosity, Acceptance, Mastery, Power, and Goal. Personally I find those too important to ignore, which is why I prefer Champfrogs over Scarf when discussing motivation in a team.

Self-Determination Theory by Deci & Ryan

Professor in psychology Edward L. Deci, together with Richard M. Ryan, proposed the following model:

Competence: equivalent to Mastery

Relatedness: same as in Champfrogs

Autonomy: equivalent to Freedom

This model lists even fewer intrinsic motivators for people. I’m sure it is a fine model, but I find it too limited for practical exploration in teams.

Note that Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, popularized Self-Determination Theory and actually changed it to Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. I am not the only one to point out that Daniel Pink replaced Relatedness with Purpose, but they’re all in the Champfrogs model anyway, so who cares?

Moving Motivators

CIMG3165Regardless of all the small differences I mentioned above, there's one that is obviously the most important…

CHAMPFROGS has pictures on cards! 🙂

If you’re interested in playing with the CHAMPFROGS model, you may want to download the free PDF or order the “official” cards. Your team would not be the first to have a bit of fun with them.


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  • Cat.

    Hello there,
    I’m curious to try this one, I’m just not sure how it works. Can you pls tell me?

  • Cecil

    Hi Jurgen,
    Thanks for sharing this.
    I am just curious about one thing : you’re comparing a method drawing on scientific studies and results (Scarf) with your Champfrogs and you rate the latter above the former.
    What are the scientific grounds you’re using to do so ? How did you validate this hypothesis ?

  • Jurgen Appelo

    Hello Cecil,
    The Champfrogs model draws from the research of Reiss and Deci/Ryan, as indicated above.
    I rate Champfrogs as more useful (to me) because it seems more complete.
    A counter question: why are Curiosity, Acceptance, Mastery, Power, and Purpose missing in the Scarf model?

  • Cecil

    Hi Jurgen,
    I suppose they don’t activate parts of the brain as meaningfully as the ones in SCARF. What makes SCARF standing out of the other oppraoches (including Ed Deci work) is how the actual reactions of the brain are made visible (and measurable) by fRMI : it helps turning soft science (psychology) into hard one (neuroscience).
    I could add a counter / counter question : on which scientific grounds did you took 6 Reiss basic desires out of your list ? But life is short and the internet is a huge place.

  • olaberg

    The motivation system works slightly different than the avoidance system (such as the mechanisms around dopamine versus stress hormones). While SCARF is marketed as a list of motivators (supports approach), it definitely is a good list of stuff that triggers the alarms of our limbic systems (supports avoidance).

    I use your CHAMPFROGS list to explore the motivators in a team’s environment, and the SCARF list to check for the existence of stuff that will block motivation, even in the presence of all CHAMPFROGS factors.

    While looking for neurological grounds for CHAMPFROGS, it seems to me like some elements in your list are in fact combinations of more fundamental things that triggers our dopamine reactions. It isn’t fx really clear if relatedness, status, and power can be separated like in the list; and the relation between how others view me and my actions vs how I view me and my actions, needs to be investigated further.

  • Damián Buonamico

    Hi Jurgen, the Fairness from SCARF Model refers to fair rewards system, people doing similar work should receive similar rewards. Not having this reward fairness could be an important demotivator.

    PS: It’s a bit creepy your picture avatar chasing me as I scroll through the article…..

    • jurgenappelo

      Thanks! Yes, I like keeping an eye on everything. 😉

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